Much of Colorado College’s endowment is invested in corporations, which profit from the extraction, refinement, and distribution of fossil fuels. As detailed in documents on file in the library, these investments total in the millions of dollars, and represent our institutional endorsement of the fossil fuel industry. While this investment approach may be economically profitable, it is morally reprehensible.
Burning oil fueled such superstorms as Sandy and Katrina, and it will continue to bring more devastating natural disasters to our doorsteps. Our endowment profits off of an industry whose product destroys people’s homes, ruins their economic livelihood, and kills their family and friends. Rising ocean levels threaten to destroy the agricultural basis for entire countries’ food supplies.
In the coming decades, global warming could easily kill millions of people. If we continue to take part in our oil consumption, the 21st century could well contain the most horrifying and gigantic human rights disaster in the history of humanity. Colorado College profits from this catastrophic future.
For many years this issue has loomed in the distance, like some distant neo-Orwellian dystopian nightmare. This is no longer the case. When it comes to the climate change crisis, we have reached the line on the horizon. The decisions we make now will determine whether the global temperature increases sufficiently to raise ocean levels and generate storms powerful enough to kill the less fortunate millions among our world population.
If the Keystone XL pipeline gets built, it alone will develop enough oil to produce over 565 remaining gigatons of carbon dioxide. Scientists claim that this is the limit which our atmosphere can absorb before raising the global temperature by more than 2º C, the accepted scientific threshold for limiting global warming.
Even without this pipeline, on our current trajectory, we will cross the carbon threshold within a couple of decades if we don’t immediately change our energy consumption practices. Now is the time for action to prevent this senseless death and destruction.
There is still a way out of this for the world. China’s and India’s economies could develop more cleanly by using our green energy technology, and more innovation and investment could compound these effects. People are learning to drive more fuel efficient cars, and most of the people in the country have finally begun to believe in the scientific consensus that our actions are contributing to global warming.
We can stop this warming pattern before we melt down. But our voice in the global economy is our money, and we cannot speak without using our voice. It is time for Colorado College to put its money where its mouth is, and divest from fossil fuels.
Opponents to this proposal often say that it will not be as profitable to invest in other corporations, or that if we divest, others will continue to invest in them nonetheless. This may be true, but certainly it is also more profitable to use slave labor than to hire wage workers. Would we buy into the 1850s cotton industry using the same rationale?
The efficacy of our actions is irrelevant. This is not a financial issue, it is a moral issue, and Colorado College stands today at the crossroads. We can choose to be leaders, to use our voice in the economic world to speak up for the welfare of future generations, or we can stand aside claiming helplessness, and allow the tragedy to unfold in front of us.
Our character as individuals hangs in the balance. The endowment is ours. The decision is ours. It’s time to stand for something.
Commentary and Debate Editor